Reds talisman heeds Fergie warning in bid to keep fresh for long road
Wayne Rooney has admitted he is taking heed of Alex Ferguson's warning against over-exertion by "reining in" his explosive approach to the game as he prepares to enter the business end of the season.
Rooney's two-goal display in Manchester United's 4-0 victory against AC Milan on Wednesday saw him continue the remarkable form that has seen him score 30 goals already this season.
The 24-year-old, who had been a doubt for the game with inflamed kneecap tendons, has been challenged to surpass the 42-goal mark set by Cristiano Ronaldo during United's Champions League-winning campaign in 2007-08.
But Ferguson has also warned Rooney that his reluctance to conserve his energies could ultimately see him suffer the consequences of overwork at a crucial stage of the season.
Rooney is unlikely to be rested for Sunday's clash with Fulham at Old Trafford, but the forward admits that he is now learning to ease off on the training pitch in an effort to avoid falling victim to fatigue or injury.
He said: "I am enjoying my football, playing well and managing myself better and that's paying off. I am not doing every training session, whereas normally I would train as hard as I can every session.
"It's not due to my knee, but I have played a lot of games this year and it is about reining myself in on the training pitch. I am getting a bit older and wiser now and it is probably the best thing to do."
Ferguson was critical of Rooney's decision to play for England despite his pre-existing knee problem last week, but the player admits that he is reluctant to withdraw from international duty if he feels fit enough to participate, claiming: "I am proud to play for my country and I want to play for them unless I really can't."
Although Rooney missed last Saturday's 1-0 victory at Wolves, he showed no ill-effects of the problem against Milan.
Rooney admits that United's prospects have been boosted with Real, whose Bernabeu Stadium will host this year's final, suffering a surprise exit.
He said: "Real Madrid have gone out now, so that has got rid of one hurdle because you knew that, if you reached the final and faced them in their own stadium, it would be difficult. But I think our result against Milan is going to send a message out."
Despite Real's elimination, United captain Gary Neville is not getting carried away.
Neville said: "Whoever we play in the next round will be difficult. AC Milan have gone out, but it could have been Manchester United if we'd not played well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)